If you are a LinkedIn user, chances are it’s happened to you: that kind, “personalized” message that shows up in your in box asking to connect.
I call it the blind outreach.
I chronicled it on a Networking Tip. A man I had never met in a geographic area I couldn’t identify, asked me to connect with him. His reasoning was that we had “lots of common contacts.”
Since your LinkedIn network is like your “live” network (at least it is to me), I started a dialogue with the requester. It went something like this (you can see the original, redacted, screenshot of the exchange accompanying this post):
“Hello, Paul, It seems we have more than a few common connections. Let’s connect!”
“Actually, only 1. What’s the compelling reason for us to connect?”
“Just growing the network, my friend.”
“So, let’s figure this out in reality. Tell me about your business, please. How do you think our connection will help both of us? That will grow our respective networks. Thanks.”
“Sorry I reached out to you, Paul. Best of luck to you.”
“No need to apologize. I usually follow up like this on blind requests like yours. Good luck.”
I’m not sure why he gave up once I started asking questions. Is networking online all about gathering names and contacts as would a kid winning a marble game? Did he really think I would blindly accept the connection without at least responding to his message?
When you first meet someone in person (remember that?) beyond the initial pleasantries, you start a dialogue (not a monologue, you take turns). The two of you ask each other questions to establish who each of you are, where you’re from, what you do, likes and dislikes, common connections and other basic “shaping” questions. Then you get on to setting up a meeting if you want to learn more and move on to either establishing a longer-term relationship–or not.
Why can’t this process be the same in the online realm? The exchange you see above is the same as if this guy had bumped into me on a bus and expected me to take him to dinner without me asking some basic questions. And when I didn’t, he moved on, and off the bus. These are the same guys who ask to be connected then send you an unsolicited sales pitch in a private message. But that’s another pet peeve for another post.
Is this how people do business (and network) in the 2020s? What happened to common courtesy? And basic business sense? Just because I encounter you online doesn’t necessarily mean I want to do business with you, let alone develop and continue a relationship with you.
As it is with trust, before we can connect or network with one another, you have to earn that connection.
Let’s get back to basics: remember that networking and connecting is not about you.
(photos courtesy of Unsplash, and Greg Bulla and Melinda Gimpel)